17th July 2013 Posted in: Emergencies
The powerful earthquake of 7.0 magnitude that hit Haiti yesterday may have affected up to 3 million people, with the worst damage in the capital Port-au-Prince and nearby coastal city of Jacmel.
UNICEF staff in Haiti are providing emergency aid, including supplies of clean water and sanitation facilities. The first wave of UNICEF emergency supplies – enough for 10,000 families – have already been airlifted into Port-au-Prince. This includes 10,000 tarpaulins, 4,600 water containers, 5.5 million water purification tablets, more than half a million oral rehydration sachets, tents and trauma kits. Further supply flights will arrive over the coming days.
Some 500 cartons of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food are being transported in from the neighbouring Dominican Republic.
UNICEF also has pre-positioned aid supplies in nearby Panama including School-in-a-Box kits, water purification tablets, water containers, tents, and tarpaulins. A supply ship is expected in Panama today carrying additional supplies, with more aid on its way to Haiti in the next few days. A UNICEF emergency response team has been deployed from New York HQ and the supply warehouse in Copenhagen.
UNICEF Haiti Representative, Guido Cornale, told the BBC that he estimates at least 20 per cent of the city of Jacmel (population 50,000) has been destroyed, with the situation magnified in the capital.
“It is a major disaster of major proportions. It is a major humanitarian crisis.”
Mr Cornale says that UNICEF’s 54 staff in Haiti have been working with other UN agencies to provide urgent water supplies to survivors and set up safe areas for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. UNICEF is also investigating reports that at least two schools have collapsed with children trapped inside.
The UNICEF office in Port-au-Prince was seriously damaged, but all staff are safe and accounted for except for three drivers who are believed to be outside the quake affected zone.
UNICEF NZ Executive Director, Dennis McKinlay, says that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world with a long history of being struck by natural disasters.
“Haiti has the second-highest population density in the western hemisphere, with many houses of poor quality construction and people living in crowded conditions.
“With so may people living in overcrowded conditions – and with access to clean water and sanitary conditions severely compromised even in the best of times – vulnerability to the spread of life-threatening waterborne diseases will be a real problem.”
“Children are always the most vulnerable in a disaster, and with almost half of Haiti’s population under 18 years of age, they will be particularly hardest hit.”
UNICEF has been active in Haiti since 1949.